Dean Files Countersuit Against Gibson, Seeks Trademark Cancellations

(Image credit: Gibson)

The ongoing legal battle between the Gibson and Dean guitar companies has taken a new turn. Last month, Gibson sued Armadillo Enterprises, the parent company of Dean, for trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, unfair competition and trademark dilution in regard to several of its designs, in particular the Flying V and Explorer. 

Now, Armadillo has filed a countersuit seeking to dismiss the case and alleging “tortious interference with Armadillo’s business relationships and/or contracts” in the months prior to the Gibson filing.

The details about the new developments come courtesy of Guitar.com, which also reports that in its suit, filed July 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Armadillo seeks to invalidate the U.S. trademarks on Gibson’s Flying V, Explorer and ES-335 body shapes,

This news comes just after Gibson’s recent statement that the company is looking to “shift from confrontation toward collaboration" following its recent trademark lawsuits.

According to Guitar.com, Armadillo’s suit states in part: “Prior to filing and/or service of Gibson’s Complaint, Gibson contacted guitar dealers (including Armadillo’s dealers), threatening legal action and demanding that dealers remove all Armadillo guitars with the V, Z, and/or semi-hollow guitar shapes.”

Furthermore, the suit states that Carlino Guitars, a store based in Medford, Massachusetts, allegedly received cease and desist letters from Gibson in April and May 2019 that demanded the removal of Dean V and Z model guitars from its website. Additionally, the cease and desist accused Carlino of being party to trademark infringement by stocking Dean guitars, and threatened legal action should it not comply.

In the suit Dean claims it believes that similar letters were sent to other dealers and retailers, resulting in calls from dealers “concerned and afraid to continue to deal with Armadillo.”

In its bid to invalidate the trademarks for the Flying V, Explorer and ES-335 body shapes, Dean argues that, “The above designs have been prominently used and promoted for years and, in some instances, decades. “All the while, Gibson sat on its purported rights and failed to object.” 

Dean goes on to state: “Armadillo’s product shapes are commonplace and are all branded with its distinct, well-known Dean and/or Luna house marks and distinct-looking headstocks. To suggest that famous musicians like Michael Schenker, Eric Peterson, Christian Martucci, and John Connolly have openly promoted, played, and endorsed spurious, ‘counterfeit’ products on stages across the world is absurd.”

Additionally, Armadillo’s counterclaim seeks the “maximum damages permitted by law” for Gibson’s alleged interference with Dean dealers.